South Surrey Recreation & Arts Centre reopens following recent expansion

Designed by Taylor Kurtz Architecture + Design Inc., the South Surrey Recreation & Arts Centre recently reopened following a significant expansion. The design strategies developed for the site build on the significant natural attributes of the immediate context while addressing several problems and missed opportunities that existed within the park.

In order to strengthen the orientation of the expanded facility to the larger community and natural environment, the landscape concept reinforced connections between the building to the greenway, bike and pedestrian pathways, parking, and the urban forest. The entry plaza takes on a distinctive character, featuring arts display windows, and an arts plaza has been created adjacent to the studio spaces and in close proximity to the urban forest. This space has been designed to accommodate a temporary outdoor kiln and other outdoor arts projects, as well as being an access point for materials unloading.

The design team undertook a rigorous analysis of programmatic and functional constraints and tested different approaches with more than 14 different concepts. These options attempted to provide a logical response to topography, orientation, construction principles and context while effectively addressing the programmatic requirements of the arts and fitness groups. Initially, the response was to organize the program elements in an east-west direction as evenly as possible over either two or three floors to the north of the existing facility. The strategy here was to provide a maximum outlook to the existing forest to the north of the site to provide excellent views without excessive solar heat gain. And through an interactive process with user groups, it became clear that the programmatic requirements dictated that all arts activities should be on the same level with clear access to the lobby from the visual arts/multipurpose space while maintaining direct access to the outdoors from the pottery studio.

In order to create a successful and inviting facility, it was also apparent that the vibrant and energetic activities such as cardio and weight training needed prominent visual access from the lobby as well as to and from the entry plaza and parking areas. Additionally, this visual surveillance from the early morning to late at night is a key CPTED (crime prevention through environmental design) principle that was critical to the design process.

The preferred solution organizes the majority of the program areas on a single level at grade. The fitness studio was located on the lower level with a view to the urban forest. Access to this space is via a light-filled double-height space that facilitates a clear visual connection between the parking areas, through the lobby to the urban forest beyond. This double-height space is designed to accommodate a future stair to provide a more direct connection between the lobby and the other lower-level spaces in the existing facility.

This proposal was initially thought to contradict all logical passive design principles by orienting the addition in a north-south direction. Careful consideration and analysis proved this not to be the case. The largely single-storey building is also far more economical to construct than the earlier two- or three-storey schemes, and also proves to be far more efficient in circulation, allowing a greater allocation of the budget to other passive energy minimization strategies such as deeper overhangs for solar shading and insulation. This orientation also creates a far more transparent building which promotes a stronger visual connection with the forest from both within the facility itself and from the parking areas and primary site circulation systems – providing a far more effective strategy for crime prevention and site safety.

The existing facility had a very “busy” architectural expression with a wide range of materials, clashing roof angles and massing elements. Rather than attempt to compete with this expression, the new addition is quiet and simple in its presentation. It pays respect to the existing building while establishing a clear and distinct departure from the original expression so as to maintain clarity and legibility, further articulated by the glazed double-height volume which provides space between the two buildings, allowing each to breathe. This space between also provides a fantastic opportunity for vibrant and stimulating programming.

Integral with the structural and construction systems employed in the expansion, the material palette maintains a dialogue between the new and existing components. The palette is a simple and restrained use of architectural concrete, wood, metal and glass. The use of these materials has been carefully considered to ensure ongoing maintenance and durability issues are addressed. The materials were also drawn from local sources where possible and employ environmentally sustainable production processes.

The public art strategy for the project involved the relocation of a significant Susan Point artwork titled Frogs to the new lobby providing significantly greater prominence for the very influential First Nations artist. The entry plaza also plays host to a large three-dimensional public art piece titled Ribbon by Ruth Beer and Charlotte Wall. The piece is a “…metaphor for physical movement and creative endeavours…” and reinforces the social and cultural relationship between the arts and fitness programs in this facility and the community as a whole. The artists worked extensively with the design team to ensure the piece contributed to the vitality and functionality of the plaza and could be enjoyed by all generations in a variety of ways.

Designed to be equivalent to a LEED Gold standard, the project incorporates “Best Practice” environmentally sustainable design initiatives such as: low-energy-consuming LED light fixtures; optimized natural indirect daylighting; sustainable stormwater management on site through bioswales, retention and detention ponds, and no stormwater run-off from the new addition enters the municipal system; electric vehicle charging station; high indoor air quality through low-VOC finishes and appropriate commissioning and HVAC systems; low-flow plumbing fixtures.

The South Surrey Recreation & Arts Centre hosted its grand reopening in May 2014.